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AT THE GALLERIES / Robert McDonald

August 01, 1986|ROBERT MCDONALD

SAN DIEGO — For its summer group show, the Anuska Galerie (2400 Kettner Blvd.) is showing the works of six painters and a sculptor.

The three-dimensional work by David Fobes is an example of usable art, a sculpture that you can sit on. The interest of the red and black, heroically high-backed chair, titled "Prophecy of Love," is, however, its handsome form rather than its comfort.

Among the painted works, all of which are representational and as a group very uneven in quality, the most accomplished and imaginative are the small gouaches of Kathleen Marshall, the "star" of the show. Working with traditional subjects--the human figure, domestic interiors, views through windows, land- and seascapes--in an intimate scale and delicate medium, she creates sunny images that pack an unexpected wallop. One recurring theme, for example, is infant abuse.

The small works of Roy David Rogers, copies of photographs, evince equal technical skill. But a shift to large scale in "Composition in Grey and Black" results in a klutzy looking painting.

The booby prize, however, goes to Daniel Camp, whose large, multipanel paintings of contemporary subjects with classical titles dominate the gallery. The focus of interest in "Judgment of Paris" is a standing Bernard H. Goetz, who shot four young men who he said attacked him on a New York subway. His figure and that of a wounded man are radiant. Three floating, purple nudes, presumably the goddesses of Greek mythology, here representing female sexuality, are grotesque, however, and the background is a mess.

"Cupid and Psyche" reveals the same problems: deftly painted images of a young woman in a hospital bed and a young man crouching at its foot, separated by a clumsily painted image of crashed cars in the central panel, which explains the conditions of the adjacent figures.

Both works look as if they had been painted by a committee rather than by one talented artist.

Leslie Nemours' shaped paintings of parents and children are also clumsy, although consistent. Lena Stodberg's "Interior with Woman in Blue Robe" is humongously decorative. Alfredo Antognini's small, juicy, academically beautiful still lifes are violated by color-coordinated decorator's frames.

Overall, it's an ordinary summer show, a mix of strong and weak works, which continues through Aug. 30.

The elegant new Hanson Art Galleries in La Jolla (1227 Prospect St.) are offering a major exhibition featuring 40 of the best-known works of "sports artist" LeRoy Neiman, who began his career with Hugh Hefner's Playboy magazine. Among his honors is the title of official artist for the 1972, 1976 and 1984 Olympics.

Measures of his success are the $100,000 to $300,000 price range for his paintings and the $7 million in annual sales of his graphics (or prints).

According to the gallery's press release, Neiman prides himself on never blending his simple colors on a "pallet," which would be messy indeed. He deftly strokes pigments on his canvases creating a "chaos of colors" meant to blend in viewers' eyes.

At a press conference he revealed himself to be a man of great charm and sincerity. He is also a very hard worker, so much so that he has lost track of the thousands of works he has made. During his flight to San Diego from the East he made five more drawings. A Hanson Galleries representative said that when Neiman reviewed the paintings in their current retrospective spanning 25 years, "He forgot he did them, they're so old."

Neiman, who has received bad reviews, confided last week, "When I read unfavorable comments, they're always well written."

Neiman as a phenomenon is more interesting than his art. To what does he owe his success?

Certainly, mass production and astute marketing techniques are in part responsible. As he works, Neiman considers every multiple use of a painting--how it will reproduce as a serigraph and in black-and- white and also how it will look on television.

Neiman's works in whatever media have verve. The conventionality of the images (mostly sports scenes and figures) is reassuring, while the slapdash way he makes them creates an illusion of contemporaneity. It may be that many of his fans imagine that he paints the way that they either would like to or could without too much practice.

The consistency of Neiman's style (real artists do change over time because they ask themselves different questions), and his long exposure in the pages of Playboy make his work recognizable. There is satisfaction for viewers in being able to exclaim, "Ah, a Neiman!" as they might also for "a Dali," "a Wyeth" or "a Norman Rockwell."

Neiman's paintings require no work from viewers. Like TV, they provide a passive kind of enjoyment. They do not provide visual nourishment. Caveat emptor. These Twinkies of painting may induce visual madness.

The exhibition continues through Aug. 17.

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